Name: Alejandro Valenzuela
Title: CEO BANCO AZTECA Y AZTECA SERVICIOS FINANCIEROS
Organisation: BANCO AZTECA
Alejandro Valenzuela Born August 15, 1961, in Mexico City, Alejandro Valenzuela has served in the public sector in Mexico's Central Bank (Banco de México) and the Finance Ministry; in the private sector he was CEO at Banorte for close to 7 years, and is currently CEO of Banco Azteca since January 2015. He holds a BA and an MA in Economics from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as a Doctorate in Project Administration and Evaluation from the Université de Paris-Dauphine and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris (ESCP): He also graduated from the École Nationale 'Administration (ENA - Promotion Victor Hugo); He has lectured at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) and the Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA).
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Alejandro's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Perhaps the most important challenge as a leader is to build mutual trust with your team. Trust is in my opinion the hardest asset to obtain and maintain and the easiest to lose. Trust allows a leader to influence, motivate and move others towards a particular goal. Trust forges teams and strengthens them to face challenges, crises, or transformations.
But how does a leader build trust with its team? The answer is simple: Lead by example. Show others how great things are accomplished through hard work, assertive communication, and passion for your undertakings. Speak the truth always and strive for excellence from yourself as well as for your team. Do it every day. Repeat. Never quit.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
First, I would like to point out that EVERYONE is a potential leader. EVERYONE is a decision shy of forging itself as one. From a young age, I had the fortune of learning how to be a leader from one of the best leaders I had the privilege to know, my Dad. As CEO of several operations in the auto industry, he showed me in his own person, the values needed to lead people towards a common goal: discipline, courage, honor, and most importantly, compassion. As a working professional, I learned many other leadership skills from my former bosses. Some I learned by example, others by contrast.
All the skills I acquired throughout the years prepared me for my current role as CEO of Banco Azteca. While having a business model far different from Banorte´s, Banco Azteca required of me those same leadership skills I learned and practice them to this day at the organization. I am always vigilant about the ever-changing market environment to make the best decisions for our clients, teammates, and shareholders. This includes constantly learning new things and listening as well as communicating effectively to all the people that help me materialize those ideas, but most importantly it involves showing up every day to work the best prepared I can be and ready for the battle.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
The first thing I do every morning is to thank God for giving me the chance to live another day and giving me the will to make people´s lives better. I am sure there are great leaders out there who find self-fulfillment by making tons of money or growing their companies to unimaginable heights, but personally for me that is not enough. I am a firm believer in not only creating prosperity for oneself, but also creating prosperity for clients, employees, and the environment. I consider myself a global citizen for that matter.
But going back to my daily routine, I read the news and any relevant subject that can provide me with good information. I try to exercise in the morning (at least five times a week), eat a healthy breakfast and hop in the shower while visualizing my goals for the day. Once I shave and put on a suit and a tie, I ride to work not before saying goodbye to my loved ones (including my cats, dogs and birds). While riding in my car, I start going over my schedule and think my strategy for the day.
Once I arrive to my office and before I jump right into it, I try to make a brief pause to quiet my mind and approach the rest of day with mental clarity. After I finish work, I go back home and try to unwind so I can spend some quality time with my family. My evening meal is usually light so I can get a good night´s rest, but not before reading the book in turn resting on my nightstand or watching a good video or film. Unless there is an emergency which I must attend to immediately, my day is officially over. Repeat. Never quit.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
As I become wiser and older, I am constantly reminded both about the frailty of humans and our resiliency when faced with adversity. This reminder was present when the Covid-19 pandemic forced humanity to adapt abruptly to constantly changing environment. Many people died unfortunately, but many others reacted to a crisis that shook the world in an unprecedented manner. People and businesses alike struggled to survive; the former helped their families by putting food on the table, while the latter reinvented their strategies and operations in order to stay afloat and save millions of jobs. Long story short, I reaffirmed my belief that humans can overcome any obstacle if we put our hearts and minds to it.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
A book that comes to mind to answer your question is In Search of Excellence, by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman Jr. It is a book I read a long time ago but left a great impression on me.
The lessons contained in this book apply to life, in general, and to any kind of business you might want to pursue. Here are some of the key takeaways I would like to share with you:
- Stay close to customers and consistently focus on them in every phase of business.
- Care about employees: inspire them and invest time and money in their development.
- Focus on innovation and customer service.
Basically, focus on people and their needs. Simple, yet challenging.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Focus on becoming the best version of yourself. Read about the Greek stoics. Do more, talk less.
Treat others the way you would like to get treated. Real power and influence come from inspiring people to follow in your footsteps.
Most importantly: HAVE FUN and enjoy the ride!
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
I know it sound repetitive, but during the Covid-19 pandemic I learned the ultimate leadership lesson from my current boss Ricardo Salinas. Ricardo maintained all his enterprises operating as much as possible in a business usual mode.
This at the outset was a very controversial decision made by a businessman during a time of uncertainty. Banco Azteca and Grupo Salinas were criticized by many, but time proved Ricardo was right. We were able to grow our operations both digitally and physically in a way no other organization did.
It was a lesson of courage and determination; our ship´s Captain was guiding us through a storm of adversity to accomplish our most important purpose: to generate value for our clients who needed financial services 24/7, and to keep our jobs here at the organization. All while protecting everyone involved from the deadly virus.